The House on Friday passed a bill to require the director of national intelligence to declassify information on the origins of Covid, sending it to President Joe Biden’s desk.
The bill, which would declassify information about the virus’s origins and any information linking it to a Chinese lab, passed the House unanimously, 419-0, with 16 members not voting. The Senate passed the measure by unanimous consent last week.
The passage of the bill, titled the Covid–19 Origin Act of 2023, comes after it was revealed that the U.S. Energy Department had concluded with “low confidence” that the pandemic “likely” originated from a laboratory leak in the Chinese city of Wuhan. That was according to a classified report delivered to key lawmakers on the House and the Senate Intelligence committees, two sources previously confirmed to NBC News.
FBI Director Chris Wray, meanwhile, said in a recent interview with Fox News that the “FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan.”
He also complained that the Chinese government had been doing “its best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here, the work that we’re doing, the work that our U.S. government and close foreign partners are doing, and that’s unfortunate for everybody.”
The bill was introduced last month by Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Mike Braun, R-Ind.
“For nearly three years, anyone asking whether Covid-19 originated as a lab leak outbreak was silenced and branded as a conspiracy theorist,” Hawley said in a statement when filing the measure. “Now these prudent skeptics stand vindicated. The American people deserve to know the truth.”
The Chinese government has denied the claims and maintained it has “always been open and transparent” about Covid.
“Based on the poor track record of the U.S. intelligence agencies in forgery and deception, the conclusions they draw have no credibility whatsoever,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said earlier this month.
Biden asked the intelligence community to look further into the origins of the pandemic in 2021 to try to reach a “definitive conclusion” on its source after agencies were conflicted on whether the virus came from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.
Kyle Stewart contributed.